Family is Everything

Family is Everything

by Bill High

One of the oldest family-owned businesses in America started in Turkey.

Let me explain. In 1618, Avedis Zildjian, an Armenian metalsmith, worked for the court of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Avedis was able to fashion a set of cymbals out of tin, copper and silver which could make musical sounds without shattering. The Sultan officially recognized Avedis surname Zildjian, which meant “Son of a Cymbal Maker.”

In 1623, Avedis was given permission to leave the palace to officially start his own business.

After Avedis died, the secret for producing the metal alloy was handed down to successive generations of male heirs. In 1850, Avedis II, built a boat in order to sail cymbals to trade exhibitions in London and to supply Europe.

In the coming years, the business took a variety of twists and turns including political unrest in their homeland of Turkey. Avedis III left Turkey for the United States in 1909 and settled in Boston. In 1927, his uncle Aram informed him via letter that he was to become heir of the family business. In 1928, Avedis III began manufacturing cymbals in Quincy, MA.

In 1964, sales popped when Ringo Starr of The Beatles used Zildjian Cymbals in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

In 1977, Armand Zildjian was appointed President of the company, but a feud developed with his brother Robert. Robert left and formed a competing company now known as Sabian Cymbals.

In 2002, Armand died at the age of 81 and passed the company to his daughters, the 14th generation of Zildjians to run the company. The company website describes their values as simply:

  1. Own it. Treat the company like it is your own.
  2. Live to play. Work hard. Play harder. Live to play embodies our passion for music and the culture we choose to build together.
  3. Better together. We are at our best when we work, listen and collaborate together.
  4. A tradition of innovation. Continuous improvement and experimentation is in our DNA.
  5. Family is everything.

What are the lessons? First, it’s possible to have a long lasting business. Second, make something great—a great product. Third, stay committed to working together. Fourth, adapt. Things will change.


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Published September 21, 2022

Topics: Family Business | Lessons with Bill

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